SEYCHELLES HOST CLIMATE CHANGE SYMPOSIUM
(Posted 18th October 2013)
A symposium on the problems of climate change was held on the Seychelles’ main island of Mahe this week, bringing together participants from several of the Indian Ocean islands and from the African mainland along the Eastern seaboard. The meeting is tasked to develop a common position, reflecting the threats of rising sea levels to the island countries and the countries in Africa with access to the ocean, no mean task considering the state of continued denial by many developed and in particular the BRICS countries, which have so far successfully stalled any meaningful agreements to contain and then reduce green gas emissions.
Attendance was reported to cover such African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa as well as from Mauritius, Madagascar, the Comoros as well as officials from COMESA and the Indian Ocean Commission.
Estimates now considered realistic in regard to the data available speak of a rise in ocean levels between around 25 centimetres at the low end and over 80 centimetres at the high end of the projections, depending on how effective the reduction of greenhouse gases will be, but considering that China now is responsible for nearly a quarter of the global output, questions are being asked how committed they, alongside Russia and India are to introduce costly green technologies which could impact on their countries’ economic growth. China’s air pollution has become a major health issue especially in the Beijing area, where maximum levels of particles recommended by the WHO and other organizations have in the past been exceeded by a factor of a hundred. This beckons questions of how sustainable such unhealthy environmental circumstances are and when the people will finally demand a reversal of pollution in the face of increased deaths and wide spread health problems.
Small islands states like the Maldives, but also the Seychelles and several Pacific nations are faced with the stark reality that their countries could be completely under water in a hundred years, should the ocean levels continue to rise at the speed seen over the past decades. Most of these countries depend to a large extent on tourism and the Seychelles in particular have devoted over 50 percent of their territory towards protected areas in the form of terrestrial national parks and nature reserves as well as marine parks. The Aldabra atoll is in fact globally recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and now serves as a barometer to test the impact of rising ocean temperatures and water levels and their impact on reefs and marine life.
Seychelles President James Alix Michel has been at the forefront to raise attention to this problem and was the catalyst for small island countries coming together to formulate their own position, marked by the struggle to stay literally afloat and survive the onslaught of rising ocean waters though the world community is yet to fully appreciate the challenges these countries have and how ongoing pollution in the name of development and their right to ‘catch up’ is affecting the rest of the world.
The symposium was officially opened by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environment Mr. Wills Agricole.